DEERFIELD — Today in the saga of Derrick Rose’s return: Brazil shouldn’t be blown out of proportion.
Following the Bulls’ first practice since arriving back in Chicago from Rio de Janeiro, the former league MVP stayed on the court at the Berto Center for approximately an hour shooting jumpers, now a routine occurrence and indicative of the healthy status of his left ACL, despite missing Saturday’s 83-81 preseason win over the Wizards in the first NBA game in Latin America.
“My knee is good. I was never worried about it. I could have played but the front office made a decision to sit me out, so my health is number one,” Rose said Monday afternoon. “It just happened. Of course I wouldn’t want it to be sore, but it’s just something that happened and I’m all right, right now."
Rose acknowledged he comprehended how fans could panic about a development like unexpectedly missing a contest, but he pledged to exercise patience with media and the general public alike at the outset of his comeback campaign.
“[Fans being] nervous, I can understand, but at the same time I have to worry about myself and worry about my health. As long as I’m healthy, this is the preseason so get all the wrinkles out. [In the] regular season, I should be all right,” he explained. “I’m fine with [the daily onslaught of questions about his knee]. That’s just something I’ve got to deal with. Does it get irritating? Sometimes, but I had the injury and it’s something we all have to go through.”
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Basically, at least according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, the press, assembled media included, may have made a mountain out of a molehill.
“That’s the reality of the way things are,” he said. “You guys [the media] all do what you do, whatever it is that you do.”
Thibodeau stuck to the organization’s party line that Rose’s soreness wasn’t an unforeseen instance, though he added that the team’s approximately 12-hour flight to Brazil could have exacerbated the pain in his point guard’s rehabilitated knee.
“It was a combination of things. He had some soreness and we flew all night going there. But he moved great today and he’s feeling real good,” the coach explained. “It’s soreness. We’re in training camp. This is an important time for us. We want everyone to work. But we also want to be smart. It was unusual with the travel involved. We played those two games and then we basically flew all night, and we had a lot of stuff going on during the day, so guys couldn’t get off their feet like they normally would because of all the obligations they had with the league. We just wanted to make sure everything was good.
“You’re concerned about anything that keeps a player out. If he needs rest, he’s going to get rest. And if he needs to play, he plays. He’s responded to the challenges he has faced thus far. I didn’t like the idea of flying all night, not well rested, some soreness. I didn’t want to take the chance,” Thibodeau went on to say. “We’re taking this day by day. He practiced well today. Hopefully he’ll be great tomorrow. When you start stringing good practices together, usually you play well.”
Rose himself downplayed the notion that the team’s arduous journey affected him, especially since the Bulls practiced after landing overseas, but not only did he understand the decision to sideline him for the contest, he knew that soreness was a predictable side effect of his recovery process and not a cause for too much concern.
“Could it have? Yeah, but I wouldn’t blame it on that. It’s just that it was sore that day,” he said. “Going into it you hear about it, but when [the soreness] actually happened it surprised everyone. Like I said, I could have played in the game, but they made a decision and I just listened to them.
“A long flight like that? Usually, I sleep right through, like 10 hours. I can sleep 10, but it’s those 13 and 14 hours that really get me because you can sleep nine and you still have five or four more to go. So for me, take an Ambien or something like that, watch a lot of movies and make sure my TV shows are up to date,” Rose continued. “It’s tough [to practice immediately after flying, but at the same time, you know it’s a business and you’ve got to be a professional about it, and you’ve got to go out there and do your job, so there’s no complaining. You just have to do it.”
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Based on Rose’s performance in Monday’s practice, Thibodeau was cautiously optimistic about the availability of the superstar, as well as All-Star center Joakim Noah for Wednesday’s preseason home opener against Central Division rival Detroit.
“Derrick did everything. He’s fine. Jo did everything. He’s moving great. So that’s a big plus. We felt coming into this stretch where we had some days in between it would be good to give those guys some rest,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but based on how they practiced today, I’m assuming they’re both going to be ready to go.”
Noah has missed all three of the Bulls’ exhibition affairs due to a strained groin suffered at a training-camp practice when he slipped on a wet spot, not a recurrence of the plantar fasciitis that plagued him last season. Despite the missed action, Thibodeau is confident Noah can get up to speed quickly.
“The good thing is he’s been able to practice. It’s not like he’s way behind,” the coach said. “But it’s still important for him to get some preseason games under his belt so he gets used to playing with the starting unit and the starting unit gets used to playing with him. It’ll be good to have him out there.”
Rose concurred: “It’s going to be good. Joakim hasn’t been playing, but in practice he’s been in every practice. He hasn’t sat out yet, really going hard, getting his conditioning up. He looks healthy out there.”
Rose believes the Bulls as a whole are taking precautionary measures when it comes to injuries this season, one in which they have championship expectations.
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“You think about all the team that go strong in the playoffs, they’re healthy teams and Joakim, he’s just taking care of his body. I think everyone is. Lifting two times a week, drinking protein shakes, ice-cold tubs, getting massages. I think everyone’s become a professional, especially the younger guys. I’m not even young anymore. I’m a veteran, a young veteran now, so having to take care of my body and having my diet right,” he said, before praising the Bulls’ new director of athletic performance, Jen Swanson. “Jen’s been everything to me. I think all the guys love her, too. But I’ve had a relationship with her going back to [Athlete’s Performance, the California facility where he rehabilitated] out there in L.A. She worked out there with me for the last two years and she’s great, and the Bulls made the decision to bring her out here and I think all the guys fell in love with her when she worked with them.”
While Thibodeau is unlikely to divulge his status until as late as possible, Rose is eagerly anticipating Wednesday’s game, his first back at the United Center since April 28, 2012, when he suffered the devastating injury.
“It feels good. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, especially at night in bed. Thinking about all the games we played, thinking about what I could have done in those games differently, and I’m excited to get back on the court in the UC. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on that court,” Rose explained. “I think I got all my jitters out the last two games I played, when I missed those free throws. I think my jitters are gone right now.”
When asked if he had any regrets about his frequently-aired sneaker commercial forecasting “The Return” at the Bulls’ home arena, the Chicago native insisted that he didn’t.
“Oh, not at all. I think it was a great commercial,” he said, drawing some laughs. “I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I tried my hardest to get back on the court every game. Every practice, I was really trying to push myself just to get back there, get back on the floor as quick as possible. It just didn’t happen last year and like I said, I had to worry about my health. That was the No. 1 issue.
“This year I hope that commercial comes true where I brighten everybody’s day and they’ll be tuned in.”